FAA (Quickly) Retreats On Temporary Tower Charge

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The FAA has backed off (in record time, it appears) on a proposal to charge a Michigan fly-in $3,200 for a temporary tower. As AVweb reported last Monday morning, organizers of the West Michigan Fly-In, at Alleghan Airport, near Grand Rapids, were scraping together donations to cover the charge. However, hours after the story appeared, and after some strategically placed phone calls from an EAA official, the agency withdrew the proposal and agreed to provide ATC services for free. "We're very relieved," said Andy Millin, an organizer whose job it is to arrange for the tower. Millin said the organizing committee was prepared to pay the fee from community sponsorships (Millin's business pledged $500) even though they were convinced it was wrong. "This turned out to be a whole lot more about pilots, the FAA, and user fees than it was about a regional airport holding a fly-in and wanting a temporary control tower," Millen told EAA's online news service. At AVweb's suggestion, Millen contacted EAA, and Government Relations Director Randy Hansen wasted no time. He talked with the senior managers who came up with the proposal and the issue was resolved quickly. "The FAA fully realizes that the fly-in is a non-profit event designed to promote the airport and its activities to the local community, and that they don't charge community members a fee to enter the airport grounds for the fly-in," Hansen said. While fly-in officials got the reaction they were looking for from the FAA, they were bewildered by some of the responses they received from pilots and organizers of other aviation events. While many offered support and suggestions on how to beat the charge, others were angry that the committee was considering paying the charge, thus potentially opening the door to similar fees being levied on other events. "They were mad because we wouldn't stand up to the FAA," said Jason Gilbert, one of the fly-in organizers. It wasn't the reaction I was expecting."